State Senate President Pro Tempore Emeritus Stratton Taylor, D-Claremore, released a report today explaining the seriousness of the current budget crisis. The State Equalization Board sometime back subtracted another $77 million from funds available for appropriation. That brings the budget gap to the total amount of $677 million.
“Many of our most precious programs, such as education, services for elderly, mental health patients and veterans are at risk because of the crisis, which is possibly the worst in state history,” Taylor stressed.
To put into perspective the seriousness of the budget crisis the Legislature could:
1. Shut down the Highway Department, bringing to a halt all new projects, maintenance of roads, snow removal, etc. Cost - $247 million;
2. Close all mental hospitals and mental health centers in the state Cost - $100 million;
3. Close all veterans centers Cost - $26.7 million;
4. Lay off every highway patrolman Cost - $69.9 million;
5. Take the Oklahoma Educational Television Authority (OETA) off the air Cost - $3.7 million;
6. Lay off 3,900 teachers Cost - $136.5 million;
7. Take 113,000 elderly citizens off the prescription drug rolls and throw 10,000 out of nursing homes Cost - $83 million; and still not close the budget gap.
“I applaud the legislative leadership and Governor for putting together the framework of the budget agreement in these difficult times. It must be stressed, however, that there are still severe cuts that will occur in all areas of state government, notwithstanding this budget agreement,” said Taylor.
“We cannot afford to be passive in a time of crisis. Something must be done,” Taylor explained.
“President David Boren, University of Oklahoma, has suggested a novel concept of a mechanism to raise revenues and then cut taxes back when the economy improves. That’s an option that should be given full consideration by the Governor and the Legislature,” Taylor added.
“Another possibility is to convene a select bipartisan task force of former governors George Nigh, Henry Bellmon and David Boren, who are all far removed from having run for public office, to make recommendations without being subject to criticism for making suggestions for political gain,” said Taylor.
“The purpose of this release is to make Oklahomans aware of the magnitude of the budget crisis, and to suggest that we consider utilizing the wisdom and experience of former governors such as Boren, Nigh and Bellmon,” Taylor concluded.